Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Portugal, In Photos, Part Two

HEY WHO HAS TWO THUMBS AND A CASE OF COVID? *shakes little plastic baggy of two severed thumbs at you* This guy. As in me. As in I have COVID, and also this little baggy containing two severed thumbs.

This is pretty much exactly what happened to me last year on my Amsterdam – Germany – Spain trip. Came back, two days later, ta-da, COVID. As we left a whole month earlier this time I thought maaaayyyyyybe we’d get ahead of any Summer Surge, but nope, not so much. So far I’m the only jabroni in the family with this jawn, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the others catch it. I’m currently in quarantine though was able to Escape Containment long enough to come out to the shed to do this post.

So far (knock on all the wood), this case is fairly mild — a high sub-fever temperature (100F) last couple nights, a cough, some congestion, nothing that wouldn’t normally come with a proper good bad cold. No idea if it’ll show sharper teeth — COVID is a sneaky creature. (And before anyone starts in, I did mask during traveling, plane and airport, and I have no idea where I got it. If it’s a full two-day incubation, I could’ve gotten it on the last full day in Sintra, where the only person I was really close to that my family wasn’t was, I believe, the actor Wilmer Valderrama. Yes, I’m serous. I’m 99.9% sure it was TV’s Wilmer Valderrama. Fez. Handy Manny. I can tell that story later if you’re interested.)

Regardless, COVID is ass and I don’t like it, but I guess I’m glad I’m catching it now and not, say, in 2020. The landscape has dramatically changed for this virus and how we deal with it just four years later, and for that I’m pretty thankful. Anyway. Portugal!

No full trip report as yet — maybe I’ll just parcel tidbits out as I post these photos — but here, amidst the beauty and the friendliness and the glorious food and the wonderful pasteis de nata, I will take one small moment to talk a little bit of shit about Portugal, and that little bit of shit is in the department of their pastries. I have noted in fact that the egg tarts are the greatest pastry in the world, and as such, any sin committed beyond that is forgivable in the light of the glory of that singular item. That being said, I was told going there that Portugal’s pastry game was unparalleled — and at a distance it would seem as such, given how they have a wealth of pastries unique to their country. One problem, though, is that most of these pastries are a variation on the form. They are, to be sure, exceptional. A delight! But I was told time and time again, “Here, try this one, this one is [insert description here],” and then at the end, it still had… a similar taste. Maybe one was more almondy. Another would be crispier, or flakier. But they were all very much like they were borrowing from the flavor off the egg tart — I found very few pastries interested in, say, using fruit or citrus, odd in a country where both the fruit and citrus are quite good! I may have gone at the wrong time? Alas. Again, this is only a tiny bit of shit-talking, and perhaps it is merely the COVID delirium, but I did feel like the pastry game in other European countries was more on point despite the seeming wealth of variety in Portugal. And again, all is forgiven in the light of the glory of the pastel de nata.

Y’know, since we’re talking pastries and also perhaps, heresies, let’s talk the egg tart. I was told that the very best of the egg tarts is the OG of egg tarts, the only egg tart that can be called the pastel de Belem, as it is the original monk’s recipe made by Pasteis de Belem in, well, Belem. Many swore these, these were the best, the original, and everything else was a mere shadow, a petty imitator, and let me tell you —

Nope! Noooooope. Nope, nope, nope.

(YMMV as with all things.)

Now, my mouth is garbage and my palate is as unrefined as that of a trash-drunk raccoon, so nothing I say should be trusted. That being said… we ate egg tarts every day but one, ranging from grocery store tarts to airport tarts to fancy ones or ones bought at random padarias, and to me, the very best is the one you can get at Manteigaria. In fact, the Belem one was, to my mind, pretty mid? It’s too hard, not delicate and crispy, and the egg custard is way too eggy — think like, an over-egged slice of French toast or something approaching sweet scrambled eggs. Whereas the custard in Manteigaria is smooth and custardy and amazing, and the crisp crackle is — well, I did a very amateur hour ASMR of it over at Instagram if you’re so inclined.

Another thing about the egg tarts that is, to me, somewhat fascinating and perplexing is… each one, from the cheapest grocery store egg tart to the fanciest of the batch, had a final taste slash aftertaste of…

Frosted Flakes.

Not just a taste on the tongue but something that lurked in the hinge of the jaw, this very specific taste memory of Frosted Fucking Flakes. A better version, obviously. Endlessly better. But still, that taste. (And it’s not a knock, to be clear. I loved Frosted Flakes before I grew up and became a banal adult who has to care about things like fiber content.)

Anyway. The food is amazing. Even the cod. Which they love. Even though it’s not from their seas and they get a ton of great seafood from off their own shores, there’s just a historical love of bacalhau there. Not a super big fan of the cod dishes, to be clear. I’m not a huge fish guy in general, but that’s potentially because I am eating fish most times in Pennsylvania, which has — *checks notes* — no ocean. But beyond the cod, the fish was great in Portugal. I have always haaaaated mackerel and I had it there and it was like, one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I ate a whole baby sardine (our waiter said, “You must eat the tail. And the eyes“) and it was lovely. Anyway. It’s all good. I can talk more about the food later. I should probably go lay down.

In the meantime —

Twenty more photos.

With a bonus two(-ish) more at the end.

Please to enjoy.

And now, for a couple bonus shots — actually, the same shot. First, unprocessed. Second, with some processing. The story here isn’t particularly interesting — we were at Quinta da Regaleira and my son saw someone ooohing and aaahhhing over something in this little niche, and when they left we looked and found a distant duckling. I snapped some photos and what turned out really excited me, though in retrospect, I’m sort of startled by how much even the unprocessed photo looks… weirdly glossy, like it’s AI? I promise, it’s not AI, not at all, it’s raw out of the camera. (Second shot has no AI either, just some tweaks in Lightroom. Adobe kinda sucks and I’ll eventually do the full switch to Affinity, I think, but for now, that’s where my library is until I take the effort to move it.)

Duckling one (unprocessed):

Duck two (processed):